NOTEBOOK: M. Hockey Reversing Troubling Trends

After 2-6-0 start last year, Crimson has begun 2007-08 season with 6-2-1 record

RICH-UP LINE
Meghan T. Purdy

Sophomore netminder Kyle Richter was key in Harvard’s 1-0 win on Saturday night, stopping all 27 Dartmouth shots, including 10 during the third period, when Mike Taylor buried the shorthanded game-winner.

In the thick of a challenging part of its schedule, Harvard faced off against yet another rival Saturday night at the Bright Hockey Center, coming out on top after co-captain Mike Taylor’s shorthanded goal halfway through the third period.

The Crimson has been tested by a series of tough opponents in its last five games: Boston University, Yale, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Colgate.

“Every game is a big one,” Taylor said. “As Coach was saying earlier, we saw last year [that] every point is big.”

Last season, Harvard missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. After the Crimson faltered in the ECAC playoffs, Harvard’s sub-.500 non-conference record prevented it from earning an NCAA bid.

“We realized from last year that one or two points over a season can be the difference between second place and eighth place,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91. “We have our sights [set] at the top of the league, and we want to get home ice and get all the things that put us in a position for a championship at the end of the year, and wins like tonight when the game is back and forth, it’s nice to put those points away in the bank.”

Harvard has turned things around this year by starting off the season in winning fashion. But Dartmouth’s strong offense and its physicality promised to be a challenge.

“They’ve always had size up front and in their forwards and are physical.,” Taylor said. “So every time we play them we expect a physical game. We don’t want to lay down and just have them us hit us. We want to step up, too.”

Yet despite the intense rivalry between the Crimson and the Big Green, only five penalties were posted Saturday night—three whistles against Harvard and two against Dartmouth.

“If you look at the season so far in the ECAC, there really haven’t been a lot of penalties,” Donato said. “The good [side] is that on most nights, really, the penalties haven’t decided the outcome of the game or haven’t had an enormous impact on the game. The bad side is that the game has probably suffered a little bit as far as the skill level and the ability to get up and down the ice without hooking and holding. I think it’s a work in progress.”

RICHTER BY THE DOZEN

For the second time this season and the fourth time in his career, Richter was named the ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week after his performance in goal against the Terriers last week, when he made 39 saves in the Crimson’s 2-1 overtime victory.

Richter posted another solid game on Saturday, making 27 saves against Dartmouth, which entered the game as the ECAC’s highest-scoring offense with an average of 3.25 goals per game.

The Big Green kept up the pressure throughout the game, taking 47 shots overall, 27 of which were on target. Even after Taylor slammed in the game-winning goal, the Crimson was not in the clear, as Dartmouth turned up the intensity, pulling Big Green goalie Mike Devine to strengthen the attack. Richter notched nine of his 10 third-period saves after Taylor’s goal to preserve the win.

But despite Dartmouth’s pressure in the crease, Richter didn’t allow a single shot to beat him, posting his third shutout this season.

“I think he deserves a lot of credit,” Donato said, adding, “The way he’s playing now, he gives us a chance to win every night.”

TWO-MINUTE MINORS

Harvard leads the series against Dartmouth, 121-55-8, although the Big Green won the last time the two faced off…The Crimson is 4-1-0 at the Bright Hockey Center this season and 8-1-0 in 2007…Entering this weekend’s game, Harvard had moved up from No. 18 to No. 15 in the USCHO.com/CSTV poll and was ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at cskinner@fas.harvard.edu.

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